We are still a year from the much-hyped free-agent class headed by Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, but there are enough difference-makers coming on the market this offseason to make for plenty of intrigue.

J.D. Martinez, after all, didn’t just hit 45 home runs last season but did it in 119 games, missing time due to injury, which meant he hit long balls at a higher rate than Giancarlo Stanton or Aaron Judge. Think about that for a second.

It will be a busy shopping season as always, so here’s a look at the top 20 free agents, with predictions where they’ll land:

1. J.D. Martinez, OF

This guy is sure to test that downward trend for power hitters. Martinez had a remarkable season, hitting 45 homers in only 119 games, including 29 in 62 games after being traded from the Tigers to the Diamondbacks.

And although some may say his initials J.D. stand for Just Dingers, he’s more than just a home-run hitter: last season, at age 30, he hit .303 with a 1.066 OPS. He’s a sub-par right fielder but a lot of teams will be more than willing to overlook that flaw in what could be quite a bidding war – especially the Phillies, who must be dreaming about how many home runs he could hit in their bandbox. Prediction: Phillies, five years, $130 million.


2. Eric Hosmer, 1B

There’s so much to like about Hosmer: A three-time Gold Glove winner, only 28, coming off perhaps his best all-around season, hitting .318 with a .385 on-base percentage and 25 home runs, and the acknowledged leader of those Royals teams that went to back-to-back World Series and won the title in 2015. But super-agent Scott Boras is already talking about asking for eight years and $200 million, in part because of the intangibles. And Boras surely will expect more than the seven years, $161 million the Orioles paid Chris Davis two winters ago. Hosmer is everything the Mets need but even if they got creative and traded Dom Smith, they wouldn’t meet the price tag. Prediction: Red Sox, seven years, $160 million.

3. Jake Arrieta, SP

After seemingly needing a year to recover from his Cy Young Award season, Arrieta pitched with dominance again in 2017 for the Cubs, especially over the second half, pitching to a 2.28 ERA. At age 32 he’ll almost never pitch at that 2015 otherworldly level, but Arrieta offered reason to believe he can play at a high level for a few more years. Whether he gets more than four years will depend on how many teams get in on the bidding. Prediction: Phillies, four years, $100 million.

4. Yu Darvish, SP

He’ll want to be paid like an ace but comes with significant risk after an up-and-down season that included time missed due to a back injury and two terrible starts in the World Series that likely will cost him millions. For the season the Japanese star went 10-12 with a 3.86 ERA, but he did pitch better for the Dodgers after being dealt at the deadline by the Rangers. Darvish still has great stuff and he’ll get big bucks, but at age 31, two years after Tommy John surgery, he probably won’t get as much as he expects. Prediction: Angels, four years, $76 million.


5. Mike Moustakas, 3B

His timing was perfect: The Royals’ third baseman delivered a career season heading into free agency, hitting 38 home runs and leading all qualified third baseman in slugging percentage. But he’s not a high on-base percentage guy (.314), is average defensively and some executives say he’s high-strung enough that he might not be a good fit in a city like New York. In other words, though at age 29 he should have some prime years left, there are some caution signs. Prediction: Cardinals, five years, $90 million.

6. Wade Davis, RP

As the only truly elite closer on the free-agent market, Davis should cash in, if not quite as big as the likes of Chapman and Jansen last winter, when they raised the bar for relievers by getting $85 million and $80 million, respectively. In part because he’s 32, Davis probably will be more in the Mark Melancon neighborhood (four years, $62 million), though a bidding war could take that number higher. More than once it’s been said the Mets should sign him and try to build a monster bullpen, but it doesn’t seem they’ll be willing to commit such big money. Prediction: Cubs, four years, $68 million.

7. Shohei Otani, SP/OF

He’s the Babe Ruth of Japan, considered as good a hitter as he is a pitcher, and if he were a true free agent he’d command by far the biggest contract this winter. But the new collective bargaining agreement stipulates that international free agents under 25 (Otani is just 23) are limited to what a team can pay him from its international signing pool money, which an MLB source says is likely to be in the range of $3-5 million for one year. In addition, there’s a potential hang-up: The posting agreement between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball has expired, but baseball people expect that to be resolved, with the team that signs Otani paying his old team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, a $20 million posting fee. The bottom line is Otani seems determined to play in the majors next year and since money won’t be the deciding factor, his decision will be based on an individual preference for team, city, etc. AL teams have an edge since they can offer the opportunity to DH as well as pitch, and there have been reports that Otani wants to play for the New York Yankees. Prediction: Yankees, one year, $5 million.


8. Jay Bruce, OF

As the Mets’ most consistent hitter, Bruce put to rest the notion that he couldn’t play in New York, then played well for the Indians after being traded midseason. For the season he hit 36 home runs, and in the postseason delivered key hits in the ALDS. He’s 31, plays a solid right field and would be a good fit coming back to the Mets, who seem to be OK with the idea of Michael Conforto in center for the immediate future. And though Bruce has told people he’d rather play closer to home in Texas, it’s not sure he’ll get more from another team. Prediction: Mets, four years, $60 million.

9. Lorenzo Cain, OF

Another guy that would fit nicely for the Mets as a true center fielder, which would allow them to play Conforto in right. Only problem is Cain will be 32 in April and thus likely to decline defensively over the course of a multiyear deal. He’s a solid hitter who hit .300 with an .803 OPS and 26 stolen bases, but with only 15 home runs, so his value is mostly as a center fielder. Some team probably will gamble that he’s athletic enough to be at least OK in center for another four years. Prediction: Giants, four years, $60 million.

10. Lance Lynn, SP

A solid, consistent starter for years, Lynn bounced back after missing the 2016 season due to Tommy John surgery and went 11-8 with a 3.43 ERA for the Cardinals. At age 31 he’d fit perfectly as the veteran pitcher the Mets are looking to sign, but as the third-best available starter, he may cost more than they want to spend. Prediction: Cubs, four years, $76 million.


11. Alex Cobb, SP

After missing all of 2015 and most of 2016 due to Tommy John surgery, Cobb re-established himself as a solid starter, going 12-10 with a 3.66 ERA. He finished strong in August and September, pitching to a 2.96 ERA, which may be an indicator that he’ll continue to improve as he gets further away from his surgery. At age 29 he’s worth a multiyear gamble. Prediction: Braves, four years, $64 million.

12. Eduardo Nunez, INF

He never fulfilled the Yankees’ hopes of succeeding Derek Jeter at shortstop, mostly because of his shaky defense, but Nunez is a very good offensive player who provided a spark for the Red Sox last season after coming over in a trade. For the season he hit .313 with an .801 OPS, playing third base and second for the Giants and Red Sox. That versatility, plus speed (24 stolen bases), will be appealing to the Mets. Prediction: Mets, four years, $44 million.

13. Greg Holland, RP

He had a great comeback season on a one-year deal with the Rockies, leading the NL with 41 saves and seemingly setting himself up for a big payday. But it was really a tale of two halves; he posted a 1.33 ERA in the first half vs. a 6.43 ERA in the second half, apparently wearing down in his first year back from Tommy John surgery. That could limit his earning power. Prediction: Cardinals, three years, $39 million.


14. Jonathan Lucroy, C

After a terrible four months with the Rangers, Lucroy rebuilt his value to some extent after being traded to the Rockies. During his two months there he put up a slash line of .310/.429/.437/.865, obviously benefiting from the Coors Field factor. He’ll draw considerable interest in a weak catching market, but re-signing in Denver makes the most sense for both sides. Prediction: Rockies, three years, $40 million.

15. Todd Frazier, 3B

He proved to be a valuable addition for the Yankees, coming over from the White Sox in July, playing very good defense and delivering some big hits in the postseason. But he only hit .213 for the season and his home runs fell from 40 in 2016 to 27, but he walked enough to put up a .344 on-base percentage. Probably won’t be back as a Yankee due to their determination to stay under the luxury-tax threshold. Turns 32 in February. Prediction: Giants, three years, $39 million.

16. Zack Cozart, SS

The Reds’ shortstop had an outstanding season, putting up a .933 OPS that was the highest among all major leaguers for his position. His problem as a free agent is there are so many great young shortstops in the big leagues these days, his market will be limited, especially at age 32. Prediction, Reds, three years, $42 million.


17. Neil Walker, INF

Seemed to lose a bit of mobility defensively and perhaps power offensively after back surgery the previous September, but still put up solid numbers (.265/,362/,439/.801) for the season. Missed significant time with a hamstring injury but played well after the Mets traded him to the Brewers, who used him at first base and third base, as well as second. His versatility makes him a good fit in Milwaukee. Prediction: Brewers, two years, $24 million.

18. Logan Morrison, 1B

Another test of how much teams will pay for power this winter. Morrison hit 38 home runs for the Rays, tied for second-highest among all first baseman in the majors, and put up an .868 OPS, but he’s the type of one-dimensional player that didn’t get big paydays as free agents a year ago. Prediction: Mariners, three years, $39 million.

19. CC Sabathia, SP

The Yankee left-hander’s renaissance season, punctuated by a strong postseason, could make him highly desirable for teams, even at age 37, on a short-term contract. Could see a lot of teams willing to give him a two-year deal but because he wants to stay in the Bronx, I think he’d come back on a one-year deal, which is probably all the Yanks will offer. If they can’t work something out, he’d be an ideal fit for the Mets as the durable veteran they’re seeking. Prediction: Yankees, one year, $12 million.

20. Brandon Kintzler, RP

A rarity these days as a late-inning reliever who isn’t a power arm with big strikeout numbers, Kintzler is a ground-ball specialist who did well last season closing for the Twins and then setting up for the Nationals. Doesn’t allow many walks, which could make him a good complement to Jeurys Familia and A.J. Ramos in the Mets’ bullpen. Prediction: Mets, two years, $25 million.

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